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Bleacher Report – Vikings

How much does earning a first-round bye matter for the Vikings?

By Matthew Coller

For a stretch of years, it seemed like earning a first-round bye in the NFL playoffs was a curse.

Between 2005 and 2012, six of eight Super Bowl winners were forced to play in the opening round of the postseason. Both New York Giants championships over the New England Patriots came in years that they participated in the Wild Card round.

Recently, teams taking a longer road to the title have not had such luck. Baltimore’s Super Bowl victory over the San Francisco 49ers at the end of the 2012 season (in February 2013) marked the last time that a team playing in the Wild Card round won the Super Bowl.

In 2015, the Seattle Seahawks beat the Minnesota Vikings 10-9 on the road and then went on to appear in the Super Bowl against the New England Patriots.

If the Vikings beat the Chicago Bears on Sunday, they will wrap up a first-round bye and host at least one playoff game (and as many as three with the Super Bowl being played at US Bank Stadium).

Clearly there is an advantage to having an extra week’s preparation for any team that earns it, but not every team has the same edge as the Vikings at their home stadium.

Since US Bank Stadium opened, the Vikings are 11-4, which is tied for the third best home win percentage, only behind Philadelphia and Kansas City. The Vikings have outscored opponents by 118 points, the fifth best point differential at home in the NFL over the last two years. The Vikings’ defense has allowed the third fewest points at home during that span.

Offensively, Vikings quarterbacks have a 103.3 rating at US Bank Stadium, the fourth best in the NFL since 2016 and they have been sacked the third fewest times.

Defensively, the Vikings have given up the fourth lowest quarterback rating. Opposing QBs have just a 75.2 rating against the Vikings at US Bank Stadium over the last two seasons. In fact, opponents have thrown just 15 touchdowns and the Vikings have picked off 16 passes during the 15 games at Minnesota’s current home stadium.

On the road since the start of 2016, the Vikings have gone 9-7. They still have a solid 93.8 (10th best) passer rating, but have been sacked 40 times.

Mike Zimmer’s defense has still been excellent on the road, giving up the second best rating against at 81.3, but the touchdown to interception ratio isn’t as good at 20:12.

The Vikings’ point differential away from US Bank Stadium is plus-19 over the last two years – sixth best in the NFL, but 99 points worse than the home differential.

With a win over the Bears, the Philadelphia Eagles would become the only team that could host a playoff game against the Vikings. In 2015 and 2016, the Eagles have the No. 1 home point differential, but that was largely accumulated with young star quarterback Carson Wentz under center. Because of an ACL injury, the Eagles will be led by backup Nick Foles instead.

The bottom line is: Going from the Wild Card round to the Super Bowl is absolutely possible, but the Vikings have been fantastic at US Bank Stadium since it opened. They would gain one of the largest advantages at home of any team, making this week’s matchup with the Chicago Bears very important to the Vikings’ chances of becoming the first team to ever play the Super Bowl at home.

*The Vikings could also earn a first-round bye with a Carolina loss.*

The post How much does earning a first-round bye matter for the Vikings? appeared first on 1500 ESPN Twin Cities.

Source:: 1500 ESPN Sportswire

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